Amid growing concerns about infection in the United States, posters joking about the coronavirus appear in computer lab


Editor’s note: This story was updated with addition content at 7 p.m. Feb. 26.

Wednesday morning, a poster making a joke about a campus computer being out of order because it has the coronavirus appeared on social media.

“Out of order. This computer has been infected with coronavirus,” the sign reads.

Michelle Geering, Kansas State’s Public Information Officer, confirmed that the poster was found in the College of Business Administration Building.

“It has been taken down,” Geering said.

Melanie Horton, assistant to the dean of the College of Business Administration, said the student has been reprimanded.

“There wasn’t any malicious intent,” Horton said. “The student didn’t realize the implications.”

Thomas Lane, vice president of student life and dean of students, said the poster was a prank by IT staff in the building trying to have laugh, not harm other students. Lane only received one complaint from a student via Twitter.

Lane added K-State’s campus climate needs to be discussed by everyone.

“This highlights the importance of the campus climate survey,” Lane said. “Right now, there is only a 10 percent response rate. It needs to be higher.”

Vedant Kulkarni, junior in management information systems and mass communications, is Student Governing Association’s director of international student affairs. He said he was made aware of the poster through social media.

Kulkarni referred to the posters as disparaging.

“I was disgusted, and quite frankly nauseated,” Kulkarni said via text. “It was painful to see this incident happen. While I understand it was posted to be a harmless prank, what people who posted it don’t understand are the microaggressions that follow such jokes.”

As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread around the globe, reports of heightened prejudice toward Asian populations have emerged. The virus, which first appeared in the Chinese Hubei Province, has infected tens of thousands of people in dozens of nations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“What we’ve seen with the coronavirus … the racism is spreading faster than the virus itself,” Fanny Fang, graduate student in counseling services and owner of the Manhattan Asian Market, said. “This is incredibly real and heartbreaking for millions of people all around the world.”

Recent reports from the CDC and the National Institutes of Health suggest that infection spread in the United States is likely.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” said director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Nancy Messonnier.

Kulkarni added K-State administration should address the issue publicly.

“I would like to see K-State administration and SGA condemn this incident and previous racially-motivated instances publicly,” Kulkarni said. “Courses regarding cultural competency, microaggressions and how to be inclusive and sensitive towards others should be implemented for all students and employees, so that people understand why these issues are not ‘just harmless pranks.’”

Editor’s Note: Vedant Kulkarni is a semi-regular columnist for the K-State Collegian. His column discusses life in the United States through the lens of an international student.

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the ex-managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.